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The notion that word of mouth and referrals are marketing gold has been a well-understood reality for decades. As these movements have been steadily migrating online, even sectors that seem immune to online reviews are feeling the effects. Take the role of online reviews for senior living communities. Whether independent living, assisted living, or nursing homes, potential residents and their loved ones are looking for guidance online. The best guidance can come from existing residents and their positive reviews can serve as a critical marketing tool.

Perhaps more so than many other sectors, senior living providers must adapt to the growing prevalence of online reviews. If ignored, they could leave lots of potential customers on the table. If handled properly, they could see a boost in leads and sales. For many years, there were loud voices in the senior living industry that bemoaned the idea of online reviews, but they’ve been quieted by the sheer number of reviews and how well review sites perform in search results.

Additionally, recent studies showcase the power of online reviews. A Nielson report from 2013 found that 70% of people surveyed trusted customer opinions posted online. That was second only to the recommendations of people we know. Reviews and testimonials, especially from those who have direct experience with a product or service, offer manifold benefits. Positive reviews provide valuable third-party endorsements and can be repurposed for other marketing efforts.

Take a look at The Independence in Charlottesville (full disclosure: they’re a client). Ashley Lam, the community manager, was recently interviewed about the effects positive online reviews have on a community. She notes a number of benefits, including enhanced online reputation, search engine optimization, resident awareness, demonstration of value and validation of resident and family opinions, and employee engagement.

Understanding the importance of positive online reviews, the key question becomes how you get them. We’ve got three tips for senior living communities to get those coveted five star reviews:

  • Your profile matters: What do your online profiles say about you? Potential residents and their loved ones look at an entire profile on the online review sites. Positive reviews from existing residents is great, but not enough. Make sure the imagery and messaging is on point. You also want to ensure you’re targeting the best sites for your audience.
  • Make it easy: Encourage online reviews by making the process easier. Create review forms for current residents and provide them with links to review sites. You also can ask for reviews. Start by requesting reviews from residents you know will be positive.
  • Be Authentic: In order for positive reviews to have a lasting impact, they have to be authentic. Don’t try to write reviews for residents and don’t post fake reviews. The potential damage far outweighs the benefits. Being authentic also means responding to negative reviews, not ignoring them.

Ultimately, positive online reviews can help sales and marketing efforts. They are only going to grow in importance and senior living communities that ignore them do so that their own peril.